Distributed Source Control

time to read 2 min | 311 words

I had a short discussion with Steve Bohlen about distributed source control, and how it differs from centralized source control. After using Git for a while, I can tell you that there are several things that I am not really willing to give up.

  • Fast commits
  • Local history
  • Easy merging

To be sure, a centralized SCM will have commits, history and merging. But something like Git takes it to a whole new level. Looking at how it changed my workflow is startling. There is no delay to committing, so I can commit every minute or so. I could do it with SVN, but it would take 30 seconds to a minute to execute, blocking my work, so I use bigger commits with SVN.

Having local history means that I can deal with a lot of small commits, because diffing a file from two commits ago is as fast as diffing the local copy. I tend to browse around in the history quite a lot, especially when I am doing stuff like code reviews, or trying to look at how I did something three weeks ago.

Merging is another thing that DVCS excels at. Not so much because of better merge algorithms (although that is a part of this), but simply because having all the information locally make the merge process so much faster.

All in all, it end up being a much easier process to work with. It takes time to get used to it, though.

And given those requirements, Fast commits, Local history, Easy merging, you pretty much end up with a distributed solution. Even with a DVCS, you still have the master repository, but just the fact that you have full local history frees you from having to manage all of that.